Soon after Marilyn died, I started “exploring” the Yahoo adult chatrooms.
Yahoo was more fun back then, before they disabled the user-created rooms – usually made for specific interests and fetishes – and started their awkwardly desperate attempt to become the new Facebook.
I am more relaxed, and confident, with written words than I am speaking or face-to-face. I even think differently, sharper, when I am writing. Even “live”, like text chat.
In the chatrooms a woman PM’ed me, introduced herself. I think she told me her name was Lisa. I hate to say I’ve forgotten, but I have. She was in her 30’s, bright, intelligent, presented herself as a writer who was exploring the human condition there. She was married, but childless. She cammed me, and she was very sweetly attractive. She lived in Los Angeles, and told me a couple times she’d been asked for her autograph – mistaken for Marisa Tomei. Someone got so upset when she had signed Marisa’s name at his insistence and then realized she wasn’t, the cops had to be called over. She really did look like her, I felt lucky. (That’s Marissa below, not Lisa)
Connecting a few times over the course of a week, we flirted. And talked about online flirting. Despite her protestation that she was more an observer than a participant, she seemed excited to chat with me. Sipping wine, relaxing. We cybered. She flashed me, hesitating with her hands grasping her top, wanting to, and then gave in. Laughing, happy to show herself off to a nice stranger, happy to be attractive again today.
After a few chats and a couple emails over a week or so, creating a little something between us, she told me felt she should admit something to me. I might not want to be with her after she did.
I thought: she’s married; she’s 3,000 miles away; I’m not rich, there is nothing I could do for her; I’ve actually seen her on cam, I know she really is an attractive woman; I didn’t expect anything beyond this; and it wasn’t like we were soulmates or swept up in love. What could possibly be a dealbreaker here, if there was even a deal to break?
What she told me was, “I have MS.”
Marilyn had had MS. She had died from it collaterally, two months before. She had passed away young for the women in her family – she had more than one great aunt or cousin alive over 100. A massive heart attack, which often happens to Multiple Sclerosis suffers. The regimen of steroid treatment strains the heart.
Lisa explained she worked to make sure her cane was always out of camera shot, she tried not to get up once she was on cam so as not to show her slowness, and always had a glass of red wine because it eased the pain.
She hadn’t used voice, because she was embarrassed by the way her speech slurred.
I told her about Marilyn just passing.
We talked about how I had felt about Marilyn’s MS, how it had affected things. Marilyn and I probably would not have been together longer is she hadn’t had it, and I hadn’t acted the most nobly. But it was becoming the dominating frame for her life, and very much more so afterwards, when things mellowed between us, and she would call me asking if I could take her to the doctor when she couldn’t trust herself to drive, and I would do ice cream runs for her.
Lisa asked me questions she had never asked anyone before, and I answered in ways I had never thought about. She had never gotten this perspective before.
A couple days later, she sent me a Dear John email.
Talking with me, she had realized what her husband must be going through, his small unspoken sacrifices and his concern.
(Not that I had described any great wrenching or sacrifice – but just, even mildly, what I felt, the way only someone like her would understand).
She felt bad realizing how she had been looking away from him for affection and attention. She was going hiking for a few days with friends, and she was going to use it to re-center herself, and when she came back she would refocus on her marriage and on being a good wife with her husband, however she could and however much time she had.
She apologized that I probably wouldn’t hear from her again.
I didn’t, but that is quite alright.